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tv   American Artifacts  CSPAN  December 25, 2014 1:11am-1:38am EST

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each week, american artifacts takes you to museums and historic places to learn what artifacts reveal about american history. the smithsonian's national museum of the american indian opened in 2004. we visit the nation to nation exhibit, focusing on treaties between the united states and native americans. the curator explains that in the late 1700s, the federal government made treaties with six nations of the indians. she explains how it has changed and endured. >> i'm a founder of the national museum of the american indian. i'm guest occcurator of the nat
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to nation exhibit and editor for the book of the same title. i first proposed the nation to nation exhibit in 2003. i was thinking just a few months ago that we would just never get to the end of it. and today i'm thinking, it's only been 11 years. amazing. nation to nation exhibit and book is really a gift that we're returning to the united states through knowledge of its citizenry about its own history. because that's what this tells. this isn't the indians' view. this isn't just as the treaties aren't the indians' treaties. the treaties are between the united states and native nations. and the treaties and this
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exhibit reflect that reality about the treaties. all of the nations had land. no one brought any land with them when they came across the atlantic ocean. no one brought any european land. there was no american land. there was only native land. and that land belonged to the native nations and to the peoples who were the citizens of the native nations. the european nations entered into treaties with the native nations, who had been making treaties amongst each other for millennia. this was a continuation of that for native peoples. and it was a continuation of treaties that the europeans had. although, in europe, mostly the
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treaties meant an end to the war. here, even though there were in most instances no wars, it meant peace and friendship that you would be allies going forward. you would have this friendship as a continuum. and the treaties really represent that relationship. they're the evidence of that relationship. they're a marker in time. but the relationship and the treaties still exist today as legally enforceable and binding documents, agreements, that both the united states and the native nations honor. but more importantly, it is the relationship that everyone is honoring. and it means peace, friendship forever. the parallel lines go on forever. and the parallel lines represent the non-native person and the
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native person, the two sets of nations that must exist in a parallel way and exist through time and through history as distinctive. i don't mean separate but distinctive, one from the other. and we maintain that distinctiveness even today. the first act of congress having to do with native peoples was the first of the trade and intercourse acts. in september 1890 -- july of 1790. what that said and what it says today -- because it is as amended still on the books, it means that no transaction for land or property by a state or
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by a person is any good, is legal, without the specific involvement or consent of the federal government. so the treaties could only be made with the federal government. any land transaction was void, no good at the get go, according to this law and according to what the native people wanted. and this was something that george washington explained personally to the seneca nation delegates by saying, this means you will never be defrauded of your land again. now, would that have been true, it was true at the time, he meant it at the time. president george washington, in
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making the treaties of 1790 with the nations of the southeast and the treaty of canandaigua, the six nation confederacy, that was new york at the time. so what george washington wanted as president of the united states was some territory for the united states to govern over and wanted a definition of the state boundaries and a clarity of the nation and the peoples' lands. what the president was trying to do was stop any possible encroachment by european nations, stop any overreach and harm to native people by the
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states and to enter into secured peace and friendship forever arrangements with the peoples. he was trying to secure the northern and southern, western borders of the united states. and these were buffalo, savannah. we're talking about really eastern western borders at that time. and that was the united states. so the nations had similar goals. they wanted peace and friendship with the united states as a matter of necessity as well as a matter of inclination. they wanted someone to be in charge of stopping the aggressiveness and the lawlessness of the people who
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were flooding into their lands from europe. and these were europeans and new americans, settlers of all kinds who were encroaching on the native lands. so they wanted that to stop. and they wanted the agreement strictly with the united states. hence, nation to nation. that's the way the law developed at that time in the 1790s. and that's the way the law is today. it's still nation to nation. our ancestors really knew these presidents, washington and lincoln and other notable and in many cases rightly so beloved people. the delegates, when they arrived by canoe and over land but
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mostly by canoe from savannah, they docked at the bottom of manhattan and were greeted by 300 white men dressed like indians who were members of the society which had been named for a chief, the chief who first made the treaty with william penn for the british colony known as the william penn colony for parts of philadelphia. so this society people were dressed as they thought indians were and mostly -- and they were cheering the arrival of the delegates. and then they carried them, they escorted them as in a parade to congress. later on the delegates were dining with george washington at
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his home, and an artist was there. and he had just completed the iconic portrait of washington, the life-size portrait of him in his military outfit. and washington wanted a visual joke to be played on the delegates. and he had him put the painting on one side of a door that washington then opened so the delegates could see him and see him in his outfit in the painting. they loved it. everyone had a good laugh. they felt it and didn't like the way it felt. so the artist asked if he could paint them and they said no. but he did draw them sover that evening and throughout the week
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that they were there. those drawings are in this exhibit. they're just beautiful drawings. and unlike anything that he really ever did. and that's because he was doing it in secret. i'm so glad he did that, even though the delegates didn't want that to be done, because it's the closest thing we have to a photograph of who the native negotiators were. and i love the story, because no one ever thinks of washington as being a jokester or having a sense of humor. they think of him being very stiff. this is a nice way to think about how he was trying to communicate. and he was improvising with what he had at hand. i just think it's an interesting story about the casualness of the relationship at the same
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time that it was a formal relationship nation to nation, it was a casual, personal relationship about developing friendship, about keeping the peace, about this lasting forever. that we're in it for the long haul. our nations are in it for the long haul, far beyond our time. and that's what they were doing at a town in new york. that's what they were doing there when the six nations people and the clan mothers and all of the chiefs and the people were -- the representatives were there at the treaty camp with the representatives of the united states. and they were all negotiating this past their own time. we do have these beautiful
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portraits of chief cornplanter, handsome lake, others who were cig cig cignatorees to the treaty. we show their images. we show the images of the non-native negotiators. that treaty was sent to philadelphia when it became the capital of the united states. and the big news out of -- in the american newspapers in 1795, i know because i have one of them and i have looked at a lot of facsimiles of others, is that president washington signed the treaty and the newspapers carried the entire text of the
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treaty. that's how important it was in 1795 that the senate had ratified and that he had signed the 1794 treaty that had been negotiated in upstate new york. both treaties were developed in various ways. the 1790 treaty was more of a direct negotiation between the president and the delegates. one of the places that they had come from was hickory ground, which was the capital of the n confedera confederacy. they had two daughter towns. they had the same name, which was common. one of them needed a new name. so the delegates liked what had happened in new york and they wanted to commemorate the treaty. and they had a ceremony in new
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york before they left renaming one of those daughter towns ne newyarkor. it's the sound that the delegates heard when they heard people say new yorker. when they heard people say, i'm a new yorker, they heard -- the people said that. that's what they heard. and that's the name that they gave our tribal town. part of the evidence of the ongoing relationship between the united states and the six nation confederacy peoples is found on every november 11, the day the
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treaty was signed, where the united states delivers cloth and treaty cloth and salt to the native nations who signed that treaty in 1794. so every -- that's done every november 11. and someone might ask, is that what it's come down to is a little bit of cloth and a little bit of salt? well, actually, it's a lot of cloth and a lot of salt. but that's not the point either. the point is that those are the symbols of the validity of the treaty, a brightening of the covenant chain is the language that was used at the time, that the covenant chain has those three links of the -- of peace, friendship forever and that from time to time because it is a
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relationship, because it is an ongoing treaty, that the covenant chain may tarnish, and it may need to be brightened up from time to time. so you need to polish the covenant chain. you need to renew your friendship. you need to meet face to face. you need to have discussions face to face. and all of that is part of maintaining the relationship is renewing your friendship. and that's what happens on treaty anniversaries. the united states does something. native nations does something. people observe and mark that time. and they try to do it with some symbolic interaction. when people come to this exhibit or when they look at the book,
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at the images in the book, i hope that they understand that we didn't just select pretty things. what we selected were things that stand for signatories to the treaties. the pipe bags and pipes that are in the treaties' exhibit are beautiful things. but i selected those beautiful things from -- mostly from the national museum of the american indian collection. and they were present in 1851 at the time of the treaty making. so these were pipe bags and pipes that actually were part of that treaty for the great plains as part of the great plains
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nations, that the treaties -- that the nations made amongst themselves and with the united states. amongst themselves for boundaries and then provided safe passage for the united states to go across their territories in wagons just with the wagon. now, who knew that that would mean the railroad down the line? that that was the width of the wagon. it must have sounded like such a modest amount of space, just a tiny trail across this vast land that you couldn't see an end to. what it turned into was something else. and that story we don't flinch from either in bad acts, bad
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papers. what disrupted the treaty spirit? that's what happened. betrayals and things that later dishonorable presidents like andrew jackson who agreed with states' writers and force marched native people out of their homes, wrenched them from their homes and sent them to indian territory. so we explore that as well. but everything in here has been selected. the pipe bags and pipes are selected because they represent the native nations who were present in 1851 at the treaty, which is called the great smoke. and why? because there were so many people making sage offerings or
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offerings of other kinds of medicine or smoking pipe, which meant they were pray iing for t good day and for the well-being of all the people. so the great smoke treaty of 1851 had many native nations as parties to it along with the united states. and these pipes and pipe bags represent each of those nations. and when you look at them and say they were there, they were witnesses, they're the evidence of what happened in 1851 and how wonderful that we can show that in all their beauty but in all their authority and in all their presence and in all they bring to us in a spiritual way, in a cosmic way and in a historical way from so long in the past.
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and you look at that and say, well, it's not so long. they are still holding up. they still look beautiful. one thing that i would like for native people who come here to have this gift of information and to know the range of treaties that exist to the non-native people, i hope the non-native people are able to go away from this saying, oh, i didn't know these were my treaties, too. they're not just the indians' treaties. these are my treaties, because i'm a citizen of the united states. that is a huge lesson. this is american history. and i think people don't really
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understand that. a lot of people don't understand that coming into this exhibit. and this is that lesson, that this is american history and this is a party of american history that if you don't know it, then you really don't know american history. if you don't know about treaties, you don't know how the united states acquired a territory over which to govern. you don't know how the -- how the united states -- how the states are shaped the way they are, how the united states is shaped the way it is. you don't know any of these things without understanding the history of treaties. and you don't understand a lot of the place names, a lot of the names of states that we have pshgs dakota is a name of a
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native nation. oklahoma is red person. blood person, relative person. there are lots of things to know about the united states that if you don't know what's called indian history or indian treaties, you don't know american history. >> watch this and other american artifacts programs any time by visiting our website at c-span.org/history.
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we would like to tell you about some of our other programs. join us saturday at 4:00 p.m. eastern for a look at history bookshelf. watch as the best known american history writers of the past decade talk about their books. that's history bookshelf every saturday at 4:00 p.m. eastern here on american history tv on c-span3. each week american artifacts takes you to museums and historic places. from the founding of the united states, george washington encouraged the creation of a garden in the nation's capital that would inspire and educate citizens on plants and their uses. this vision was realized in 1820 when congress created the u.s. bow tannic garden on the capital grounds. the most recent addition, the national garden, features plants of the

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